Due to its British colonial roots, Hong Kong is often described as a window to the west. This is true with street names like ‘Soho’ and British style pubs being commonplace, but this does not dilute the Chinese culture but instead, adds to it. In fact what I liked the most is how one minute you feel like you are walking in China with temples and markets in Kowloon and the next minute you feel like you’re are in Britain in the ex-pat heavy areas of Hong Kong island.
But Hong Kong isn’t just a hybrid of east and west, it’s a hybrid of modern and traditional. Living in London, a city that takes pride in its heritage of stunted Georgian architecture made me excited upon my visit to Hong Kong Island. That and a love of sci-fi films. The view from Victoria Peak with hundreds of compactly placed skyscrapers is truly mind blowing, and looks like it is straight out of the opening scene from Bladerunner. This futuristic aesthetic extends throughout the entire city with neon lights and giant advertisements which puts Times Square to shame. And yet we are often reminded of traditional Chinese cultural elements around the city with the Taoist architecture of the Wong Tai Sin Temple and venturing further out, the Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha.
As a harbour city, the cuisine is as expected, proportionately represented with seafood. Temple Street features great street food, which is sometimes even better than restaurant food. Looking at the diverse selection of meat snacks, I often wondered if they should have the motto “if it fits on a stick then it is for sale”. In restaurants, roasted GooseSiu Gno (Goose) and Dim Sum were popular favourites that I often indulged in and at a reasonable price as well. Perhaps Hong Kong cuisine didn’t mix with western elements as much as I predicted.
For a city that is so focused on finance, Hong Kong also feels at the same time very relaxed. It is a fun city. Sure the amount of bars and clubs are a lot more limited than the London night owl’s plenitude of choice, but Lan Kwai Fong offers an entertaining spot. With open walk in bars (thank you humidity) and affordable drinks one can feel more at ease than in the cattle like ordeal of entering a London club. Most surprising is the 6:00 am closing time of most venues, which is something worth experiencing (especially on a Friday or Saturday) as night gradually turns to day and you eat you strange but tasty meat on a stick snack and drink a chilled beer.